'Derived grades' cause drop
But this year's drop is explained by the decision of the Scottish Qualifications Authority to scrap its "derived grades" procedure. This provided an automatic appeal to improve a student's result where a school had a strong track record in predicting its pupils' results.
In previous years, post-appeal figures have generally been one to two percentage points higher than the pre-appeal figures. This year, however, that difference may increase as the students who would have benefited from derived grades will have had to submit individual appeals. A higher number of appeals, mainly at Standard grade, are expected.
As in previous years, a higher proportion of girls than boys are achieving exam passes at all levels. In S5-6, this is partly due to higher staying on rates for girls than boys. This year, 26 per cent of S5 boys gained 3+ Highers compared to 33 per cent of girls.
Neighbouring authorities East Renfrewshire and Glasgow continue to be the highest and lowest-performing authorities respectively for 3+ Highers in S5, East Renfrewshire had 41 per cent compared to Glasgow's 14 per cent.
A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said its results at Higher had improved and that the council's education commission's recommendations on various approaches to raising attainment would be implemented.
Bailie Gordon Matheson, Glasgow City Council's executive member for education services, said: "We don't believe there is a magic formula to improve attainment and achievement in this city. We believe significant progress can be made through generating new ideas, and we are very hopeful that the benefits of some of these new initiatives will feed through into our exam results over the next few years."
East Renfrewshire's education convener, Councillor Alan Lafferty, attributed its performance at Higher partly to its switch to Intermediates which the authority believes was a better preparation for Higher. However, because of the authority's move away from Standard grade in favour of Intermediates, there was a "distortion" in East Renfrewshire's S4 figures.